When you travel, you tend to do things you normally wouldn´t, which is probably one of the best reasons I can think of for setting forth. Buying a newspaper might be a frequent occurrence for you, but for me it is not. But one Sunday morning last month I did, because I had a train journey ahead and because the front page caught my attention. Four weeks later and that front page of Die Zeit still hasn´t been read, but I did read an article from the education and jobs section called Lehrer und Blind, featuring a couple of teachers who are managing to teach in an academic high school (Gymnasium) despite not being able to see.
Firstly, about progress:
To find that I could read the article without a dictionary, even if there were lots of words I was unsure of, was something of a revelation about having made real progress. I have been feeling that my German is improving very slowly but a year ago it would have been a real struggle to read that article. It is an exciting thing to suddenly realise that all those small steps add up to something very encouraging every now and then.
Now, about the teachers: Martin Parks teaches French and Geography in Baden-Württemberg at a school with 1400 pupils. His guide-dog helps him navigate the playground and corridors, he uses an electronic whiteboard to display the teaching material from his keyboard. Pupils shout “hier” to get his attention and he shines a light in their direction which means they can speak, in the same way as a teacher might nod to one of several pupils with their hands up.
In the break the class was keen to tell the reporter some of the other electronic gadgetry Parks uses: a mobile phone which quietly reads out his reminders, a talking computer, a Braille watch, and an i-pod into which the pupils recorded their names and hobbies, to enable Parks to recognise their voices.
The blindness calls for a slightly different partnership between teacher and student, for example, Parks will sometimes say that he needs help from someone with sharp eyes, or a student will call out “vorsicht!” to prevent Parks from tripping over an electric lead.
The article also tells of Bettina Koletnig, who teaches French and German in Munich. It sums up by quoting her as saying that they have students with handicaps, why not teachers? Parks´ final comment is that he hopes that blindness will be seen as just one Eigenschaft (feature or characteristic of a person), not the dominant one.
QUICK TIP: Travel, even if it is not far.
The full article in German can be seen on http://www.zeit.de/2011/02/C-Blinde-Lehrer
The image above is from http://louisbraillebiography.com/ which makes inspiring reading.
This French site shows how numbers and puctuation are dealt with in Braille http://typhlophile.com/braille/
Tiresias is about how Braille can be used for musical notation: http://www.tiresias.org/research/guidelines/braille_codes/braille_music.htm